FA Youth Cup 5th Round
Arsenal 2 (Akpom, Gnabry) Everton 4 (Pennington, Long, Grant, Charsley)
By Jeorge Bird at Underhill
Arsenal U18s saw their FA Youth Cup aspirations shattered as a consequence of a manic 11 minutes at the start of the second half against Everton at Underhill this evening.
The Gunners had taken the lead through Chuba Akpom early on, only to be pegged back by a Matthew Pennington equaliser a minute later. The game turned at the start of the second period, however, as Everton scored three times in quick succession, capitalising on some catastrophic Arsenal defending to go 4-1 to the good, rendering Serge Gnabry’s subsequent strike irrelevant.
With Jon Toral still missing through injury, Steve Gatting, who was joined by Carl Laraman on the bench, named the same starting line-up that took to the field against Fulham in the previous round, with the only alteration to the squad being the inclusion of schoolboy goalkeeper Ryan Huddart on the bench in the absence of the injured Josh Vickers.
subs: Lipman (for Jeffrey, 65). Not used: Huddart, Siemann, Kamara, Iwobi.
Both sides conjured up plenty of opportunities in the early stages, with Gnabry shooting straight at Russell Griffiths following a neat passing move, before the much-vaunted George Green twice came close to putting Everton ahead.
Jack Jebb then saw his shot hit Chuba Akpom, before a piece of ingenuity from Anthony Jeffrey provided Arsenal with the opening goal. The sprightly winger somehow managed to keep the ball in play in the far right corner of the pitch and succeeded in firing a delivery across the face of goal, with Akpom on hand to turn the ball past Griffiths to open the scoring.
Barely before you could digest what had just happened, the ball was in the net at the other end as Hector Bellerin conceded an unnecessary free-kick on the edge of his own penalty area, Conor Grant fired in a precise delivery and Pennington headed home past a stranded Deyan Iliev.
Arsenal’s response was to carve out a raft of opportunities in quick succession as they sought to seize control of the game. Gnabry saw a free-kick from distance well held, then Akpom headed over from a Jebb free-kick, before the latter saw a shot saved himself. Jebb then almost caught out Griffiths with a shot from long range, before combining with the overlapping Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill to tee up Gnabry, who was also denied.
Everton threatened intermittently but Gnabry deserved a better reward after slaloming his way through the entire Everton defence only to see his subsequent shot deflected out for a corner. Bellerin then atoned for his part in Everton’s opening goal by making a superb block at a crucial moment, but Chris Long came perilously close to connecting with a well-crafted delivery at the far post.
The start of the second-half, however, was where it all went rather awry for Arsenal. First Zach Fagan’s hashed clearance fell directly to Long, who smashed home to make it 2-1, then Fagan turned the ball against his own post and the ball bounced back out for Conor Grant to extend Everton’s advantage.
Arsenal were not prepared to give up without a fight, despite their obvious frustration at conceding twice in quick succession. Gnabry struck a post after being found by Kristoffer Olsson, before the Swedish midfielder, perhaps in a mist of fury, smashed a shot wide. Olsson’s next action, however, would, unintentionally, put the game beyond Arsenal. Having won a free-kick on the edge of the area, Olsson was expected to either go for goal himself or float a delivery into a crowded penalty area. Instead, he tried to lay the ball off for Jebb, who was beside him, but, in a misunderstanding that would have been comical had it not had such grave consequences, the latter wasn’t aware that the ball was intended for him and Everton seized possession and, in a flash, ended the game as a contest after Harry Charsley tapped home.
Austin Lipman, the matchwinner in the last round, was then introduced in place of Jeffrey, but it was Gnabry who was Arsenal’s most potent force, with the German youngster reducing the arrears with a fine curled effort. Arsenal pushed centre-back Isaac Hayden into an advanced midfield position for the remaining minutes, with Alfred Mugabo dropping back to operate in central defence, and they piled men forwards late on, with Gnabry seeing a shot deflected wide, and Jebb also coming close but, despite five minutes of additional time, Arsenal had given themselves too big a task with the three goals they conceded so sloppily at the start of the second period.
Deyan Iliev- 5- Delivery is improving, but perhaps could have been positioned better for some of the goals.
Hector Bellerin-6- Rashly gave away the free-kick that culminated in Everton’s first, but redeemed himself thereafter.
Zach Fagan-5- Two costly mistakes at a crucial time ultimately led to Arsenal losing the game.
Isaac Hayden-6- Occasionally over-played the ball, but was a threat when pushed into an advanced midfield role.
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill-6- Delivered some useful crosses, but beaten a couple of times down the left flank.
Alfred Mugabo-6- Not as tenacious as usual, but slotted in well when asked to fill in at centre-back.
Kris Olsson-5- Poor mistake with the free-kick and didn’t have enough influence on proceedings.
Anthony Jeffrey-6- A lively presence as always, his perseverance created the opener.
Jack Jebb-6- Over-hit some passes, but possesses great technique and came close to scoring.
Serge Gnabry-7- Is getting back to his best, with some dynamic runs and great trickery.
Chuba Akpom-6- Took his goal well and came close with another effort after cutting in on the left flank.
Austin Lipman (for Jeffrey, 56)- 5- Couldn’t match the impact he made in the previous round.
Not used: Ryan Huddart, Alex Iwobi, Glen Kamara, Leander Siemann.